Green energy dream backfires for historic German town

Posted: August 20, 2017 by oldbrew in geothermal, government, ideology

Image credit: The Local

It’s not the only place in the region to suffer but as The Local says ‘Staufen has really become a byword for failed geothermal drilling.’

A German town’s decision to invest in geothermal energy backfired badly after underground drilling went wrong and hundred of buildings began to fall apart.

Staufen, a town of 8,100 inhabitants on the edge of the Black Forest, envisioned a blissful new green energy future when work on the project began in 2007.

But when the drills hit groundwater, the pretty Baden Württenburg hamlet instead found itself in a battle for survival. More than 270 buildings have suffered fractures since the drills penetrated a layer of earth and struck groundwater in a yard right behind the town hall. 

“We’ve been in crisis mode for ten years,” Mayor Michael Benitz told news agency DPA. “It’s a slow-motion catastrophe.” A red banner that hangs from the damaged town hall proclaims: “Staufen must not fall apart”. 

But in some cases it almost already has.

“In combination with groundwater this layer of earth turns into cement, expanding the layers and forcing the earth upwards,” the mayor explained.

”In some places, Staufen has risen 62 centimetres and moved more than 45 centimetres sideways. This is causing some buildings to pull apart and crack.”

Two houses have already had to be torn down and the town fears that more may need to be demolished to avoid collapse.

“Fractures have become our daily companions” said Csaba-Peter Gaspar, an executive consultant whose own apartment in the town’s historic core has suffered major damage.

A mediation body established to deal with the crisis, and the financial fallout for inhabitants, has so far received more than 400 claims.

Fortunately the town has had the benefit of a show of solidarity from state and municipal authorities which have pitched in with financial assistance, enabling the imminent repair of damaged buildings.

Staufen also reached an out-of-court settlement with the drilling firm to the tune of €1.175 million ($1.4 million).
. . .
“I’m working on the assumption that we’ll be grappling with this problem for several more years, probably even decades,” said the mayor.

Full report here.

  1. Joe Public says:

    In Staufen meanwhile pumps are in operation around the clock to dredge groundwater and minimize damage. This has reduced the buildup of cement, with the ground now rising at an average level of just 1.8 millimetres per month, compared to several centimetres in the initial phases.

    Will those pumps be powered exclusively by wind & solar, or do they need to be run by dependables?


  2. oldbrew says:

    Joe – it certainly won’t be geothermal power.

    “A geochemical process called anhydrite swelling has been confirmed as the cause of these uplifts. This is a transformation of the mineral anhydrite (anhydrous calcium sulphate) into gypsum (hydrous calcium sulphate). A pre-condition for this transformation is that the anhydrite is in contact with water, which is then stored in its crystalline structure”. – Wikipedia.

  3. Bitter&twisted says:

    Idiots. Serves them right.
    Fracking would have been a cheaper and much safer option- assuming shale gas is down there.

  4. Wow what a revelation, but why make an issue over a bad decision on where to drill for Geo Thermal when there are hundreds of such drillings taking place for fracking for oil and gas and there are many earth tremors which this causes.

    What the house owner has to insure his property against any damage caused by the undermining of hie/her house by the careless and negligent companies.

  5. oldbrew says:

    I wouldn’t argue against the idea that deep drilling for any reason near properties carries a potential risk. The question is whether the risk can be managed successfully.

  6. Gamecock says:

    The Hydrogen Answer

    What was the question?

  7. Colin says:

    Apparently parts of the town centre have risen by 30cm. In a world threatened by rising sea levels surely this is a good thing?